Evaluating Sermons

I evaluate a lot of sermons. I don’t just mean that I listen to sermons and decide whether I like them or not — everyone who goes to church does that. I mean that I professionally evaluate sermons and give formal feedback to the preacher. Some I evaluate in my role as a ministry trainer and others I evaluate in my role on a preaching team (before one of us preaches we preach the sermon to each other and get feedback on how to strengthen it).

So I’ve thought about this a lot. Most sermon evaluation forms you find on the internet and at seminaries are not very helpful because they measure too many things.

These were the top hits when I googled for “sermon evaluation forms”
Calvin Seminary’s (30 questions)
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s Form for Ministry Interns (41 questions)
Reformed Baptist Seminary’s (35 questions).

Do all the things these long forms ask about matter? A little. But using that to evaluate a sermon is like evaluating your church’s statement of faith based on its grammar. It sort of misses the point. Of course you want a statement of faith that is grammatical, but if its content is sketchy then every moment spent improving its grammar is wasted time. Sinfully wasted time.

In the same way, focusing on the superficials of a sermon when the underlying content is bogus is ridiculous. I realize that’s not the intent of these forms, but that is what they encourage.

So this is the form I use:

Pointers (what should I change?)

Keepers (what was so good I should be sure not to take it out)?

That’s it — two questions. I sometimes do it on a 3x5 index card. Keepers on the front, pointers on the back (a tip I got from Earl Creps).

And this is the grid I’m putting it through:
1) Was Christ proclaimed clearly?
2) Was the sermon Biblically sound?
3) Was it interesting?
4) Did it ask me to do something appropriate in response?

I try to never give them more than three pointers and three keepers, and I try to be as specific as possible.

There are lots of other aspects of a sermon I could nitpick, but if the person is preaching an interesting, Biblically sound sermon that exalts Christ and challenges me to obey Him then they’re doing fabulous. Why would I nitpick them at that point? To demoralize them? To clone my habits (“at this point I would have told a joke — you should tell a joke”)?

Anyway, this post probably wasn’t relevant to most of you. But for those of you who have to evaluate preaching on a regular basis, I hope I’ve given you some food for thought.

And to those in my ministry, now you know what I’m trying to do when I prepare a sermon: proclaim the good news of Jesus in a way that is faithful to the Biblical text I’m working with in an interesting way that challenges you to wholeheartedly respond. From time to time, be sure to let me know how I’m doing. 🙂

3 thoughts on “Evaluating Sermons”

  1. Glen,

    Thanks for sharing this! My role at Belmont has changed such that I will now be preaching weekly for our on-campus mid-week service, as well as a few times a semester at chapel (which we are re-introducing to campus after a 15 year hiatus).

    Your evaluation categories will serve as a good guide for my message preparation!

    Thanks for sharing.


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